LIU Brooklyn advanced their winning streak to six as the Blackbirds closed the game on a 9-2 run which included several big time plays from senior Jerome Frink and defeated Wagner Thursday night at the Steinberg Wellness Center 76-69 to move to 6-1 in NEC play and 13-7 overall.
The Blackbirds led for the first 37 minutes of this game and led by as much as twelve points late in the first half but Wagner, who entered the game 3-3 in the NEC and was tabbed to finish second in the preseason by the NEC coaches, wasn’t going to go away quietly.
Wagner got back in it, thanks mostly from a strong second half by senior forward Mike Aamen, who scored all 13 of his points in the final twenty minutes and his layup with 2:41 left tied the game at 67 before LIU would close the Seahawks out with their game-ending run.
Frink was the man down the stretch for LIU as he scored five straight points after Aaman tied the game up and then came up with a huge block shot on Aamen as he was about to go for a lay-in with 42 seconds remaining and LIU up five to help seal the win for the Blackbirds.
“That was a great win for our program against a tough opponent who plays similar to us this year.” LIU Brooklyn head coach Jack Perri said after the win. “This year, we’ve kind of adapted that style of play where rebounding is, well it always been important for us but we’re actually having a lot of success with it and we’re defending at a pretty high level.”
Before the senior took over, the second half for LIU was all about the freshman Jashaun Agosto who had a tremendous game especially with his penetration and ability to finish around the basket. Agosto finished with a game-high 19 points and it was his 14-point second half that kept a surging Wagner squad from overtaking the Blackbirds.
“He is awesome. He has been awesome.” Perri said of Agosto. “He is calming for everybody. He controls the tempo, he controls the game. He defends. He never gets tired. We’re really fortunate to have him and he was huge…He made every right decision down the stretch.”
“Every game is the same game for me,” Agosto said. “Nothing’s different, it is just if I’m hitting my shot or not. If I am, I’m going to keep going to it, if not I’m going to find ways to help my team win the game…I was just making the right play and then their big guy kept sagging off so it was an easy floater or easy layup or a dish off. So I was just making the right read, if they came up I dished it. If not, I was going up.”
LIU Brooklyn held Wagner defensively to 1.01 points per possession (69 pts/68 possessions) and 40 percent shooting.
In a matchup of the top two rebounding teams in the NEC, it was a tight battle on the boards as LIU out-rebounded Wagner by just one and Wagner outrebounded LIU on the offensive glass by four.
For Wagner, junior guard Corey Henson led the Seahawks with 17 points but was just 5 of 16 shooting in the game. Freshman Conor Ferrell finished with ten points. Senior forward Michael Carey was held in check as he finished with six points and three rebounds in 26 minutes.
After Agosto’s 19 points, Jerome Frink was the next leading scorer with 15 points. LIU Brooklyn also got contributions from Iverson Fleming who finished with ten points. LIU’s bench had a solid game with nine points from both Raul Frias (3-4 3FGs) and Raiquan Clark and five points for Julius van Sauers.
The win for LIU sets up a juicy game on Saturday as the Blackbirds heads to Jersey to face off against NEC-favorite Fairleigh Dickinson who also won Thursday night against St. Francis Brooklyn to go to 6-1 and remain in a first-place tie with LIU and Mount St. Mary’s (also 6-1 after beating Sacred Heart on the road). The three first-place teams remain two games clear of the next best team in the conference.
“We’ll prepare. We’ll try to figure out that (FDU head coach Greg Herenda) lets them play,” Perri said. “They have a lot of confidence. They have a lot of ability. I respect that program big time. I respect what he has done with them. It’ll be a very difficult matchup. It’s very different from what we just faced. But we are excited about the opportunity considering that we are playing pretty well.”